Dem senator: US military made it possible to fight Ebola

On the heels of a three-day visit to West Africa, Sen. Chris CoonsChris CoonsTrump gets chance to remake the courts A Cabinet position for Petraeus; disciplinary actions for Broadwell after affair Overnight Defense: Trump reportedly picking Mattis for Defense chief MORE (D-N.J.) said Sunday that the United States is helping to finally turn the corner in the fight against Ebola overseas.

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Coons, the first member of Congress to visit an Ebola-stricken country, wrote in an op-ed published late Sunday that “Liberia is moving from crisis toward recovery” with the help of the U.S. military and agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Every person I met in Liberia — from Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to leaders of United Nation agencies and international nonprofits — told me that without our military intervention, Liberia’s fight against Ebola would not have come this far,” Coons wrote in The News Journal of Wilmington, Del.

Coons, a member of the Senate’s Foreign Relations and Appropriations committees, said “only the U.S. military had the capability” to deliver badly needed medical and construction materials to remote areas.

About 2,900 troops have been stationed in West Africa to build more than a dozen treatment centers for those infected with the disease. That work will likely be completed this month, and U.S. military leaders said they will decide by mid-January whether to send more troops to a different area of the disease-stricken region, or if the troops should be sent home. 

The use of the military has been controversial, with many lawmakers fearing for the safety of the troops and wondering if it was an appropriate step for soldiers to fight a disease.

"If the progress in Liberia continues the direction it is going in and we don't get told to do something outside Liberia, I expect we would start to redeploy some forces," Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, the commander of the military’s Ebola task force, told The Wall Street Journal last week. "If they tell us to do something else, we will do that."

While the disease’s spread has slowed in the hardest-hit areas, it is not yet controlled, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). Nearly 8,000 people have died from Ebola in West Africa.